Gobi Masala (Cauliflower Curry) – Recipe

Cauliflower Curry
Cauliflower curry (gobi masala)

Cauliflower curry (gobi masala) is a great Indian dish to have in your back pocket, because once you know the basic method you can knock it out quickly, varying the spicing to suit your mood and your guests. (You shouldn’t actually keep it in your back pocket though, the turmeric causes terrible stains.)

My version of this curry comes out neither saucy nor completely dry. It is important to pay close attention towards the end of cooking, because you want the cauliflower to be thoroughly tender, but not breaking down into mush. It helps to make the florets as evenly sized as possible.

This same recipe can just as easily be used with any other vegetable that will hold its shape and not give up too much water, such as beets or turnips. For these firmer vegetables, you might want to parboil or microwave them first, to reduce the final cooking time.

One possibly less familiar spice you’ll see in the ingredient list is asafoetida, otherwise known as hing, which is the ground-up gum from a particular plant rhizome. Asafoetida is pungent and has a flavor somewhat akin to aged garlic. It is used in small quantities to add savor to curries. It is also reputed to aid digestion.

Serve this up with basmati rice, dalraita, and tamarind chutney and/or some Indian pickles for a satisfying feast.

Gobi Masala (Cauliflower Curry)
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free / serves 4 as part of an Indian meal

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon mustard oil (if not available, use 1 more tablespoon vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
  • pinch asafoetida (hing) powder (see comments discussion if you need gluten-free)
  • 1 large cauliflower cut into bite sized florets
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • cilantro
  1. Put the vegetable and mustard oil in a pot that holds at least 4 quarts and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the black mustard seeds. Cook, watching carefully, until they change color, about 30 seconds. Immediately add the onion and salt and lower the heat to medium.
  2. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent and darkened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two. Meanwhile, gather the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and asafoetida in a small bowl. Dump the mixture of spices into onions, give a quick stir, and immediately add the cauliflower (to avoid burning the spices).
  3. Toss the cauliflower through the spices, add 1/4 cup of water, and cover the pot loosely. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is completely tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes. Add a bit more water if needed to develop just a very small amount of sauciness.
  4. Stir in the garam masala and taste. Add more salt or spices as needed. Put in serving bowl. (Optional: for extra flavor, fry more mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little more oil, for about 20 seconds, and drizzle over the finished dish. This is called tempering, and you can play with which spices are used.) Garnish with the cilantro, and serve immediately.


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 11th, 2011 in Favorites, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

26 Responses to “Gobi Masala (Cauliflower Curry) – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Oh lovely. Any excuse to make gobi again! (And dal for that matter!)

    Where do you find your mustard oil? I have some lurking somewhere, but it’s not refrigerated. Probably rancid at this point, huh?

  2. Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I make a closely-related version of this dish, but it also includes cubed potatoes, and getting the potatoes and cauliflower to be done at the same time is a little tricky at first.

    The key ingredient that I use and you don’t is nigella seeds — about 10-20 seeds for a dish that serves 4 seems about right. They have a flavor that goes perfectly with the cauliflower. You can throw them in at the same time as the mustard seeds. (I get them from a local indian store; I think my 8oz bag cost me about what one 3/4oz Spice Islands jar of cumin would cost!)

    My only other suggestion is that it’s good idea to add the mustard oil LATE in the process. High heat seems (to me) to make it lose its mustardy-ness.

  3. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 11, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Hey Ivy – You can find mustard oil at any Indian grocery, but it will likely be labeled for external use only. You have to use your own judgement on that one. Apparently the US has banned it as a cooking oil and labeling it that way is wink to get around it. I haven't studied it extensively, but figure I'm willing to take the chance on a teaspoon here and there. You are probably right that it should be refrigerated if you don't use it often.

  4. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Nigella seeds would indeed be very welcome at this party! I like their slightly oniony little bite. They are nice on flatbreads as well.

  5. Reply
    April 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    I love cauliflower in Indian curry. Happen to have a whole cauliflower waiting in the fridge for just such a recipe =D.

  6. Reply
    April 13, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Your cauliflower looks delicious. I have never tried it your way but I will try for sure.

  7. Reply
    April 13, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    I think cauliflower is so delicious with Indian spices. I made a dish very similar to this recently. Yum!

  8. Reply
    April 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    That looks delicious! I’m trying to get better at making my own Indian food. In London I’ve fallen in love with it but I’m about to return to the U.S.

    So I’m guessing mixing your own spices is always superior to a pre-made blend?

  9. Reply
    April 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    I love gobi masala, but I’ve never heard of mustard oil. It just makes me wonder why I’ve never heard of it, since I love mustard so much. Also, where would one go about finding asafoetida powder?

  10. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    @Mimi – the best thing about mixing your own spices is that you can start with whole seeds and other spices which will retain their flavor better than powdered. That said, there are some reputable brands of spice mixes that are quite good. Your best bet is to buy them at a busy Indian grocer where they will have turned over quickly and so not turned to dust on the shelf.

  11. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    @Morgan – well, there is the issue that in the US at least, mustard oil can't be sold for eating, although it is used quite heavily in Indian food. Do some reading on the web and make your own decision whether you want to use it or not. Asafoetida can be found at any Indian grocery, or you can buy it online: link to amzn.to . It is used in very small quantities, and it adds somewhat of garlicky, resinous flavor, and is purported to be good for digestion.

  12. Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    hi i just tried the cauliflower curry and something in there was really bitter? i did use brown mustard seed instead of black? did i not cook the mustard enough. that is the only thing i can think of that may make it bitter?

    • Reply
      March 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      Hey Jan – the most likely way to have this dish turn out bitter would be to burn the spices, or maybe use too much turmeric. It is worth finding the black mustard seed though, it it a different flavor and used in a huge number of Indian dishes so you won’t have any trouble using it up.

  13. Reply
    March 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    That was flippin’ delicious! I added potatoes and left out the mustard oil (I didnt have any on hand). Thanks for the recipe, it’s a keeper 🙂

    • Reply
      March 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      Good deal! (And with potatoes you’ve got Aloo Gobi, a classic.)

  14. Reply
    July 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I grew up eating Indian food so I am hard to please but this recipe is excellent. Me and boyfriend loved it. Thank you !!!

  15. Reply
    June 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    I tried this today and loved it! I will certainly be making it again and again. I bought some asafetida a while ago for another recipe and never got around to using it. It’s quite potent and it seems I have a lifetime supply if all I need is a pinch at a time. What I like about this recipe is how easy it is to make as the only perishable ingredient I need is the cauliflower. (I omitted the fresh cilantro garnish and I always have onions on hand.) Thank you for providing a new and delicious way to eat cauliflower!

  16. Reply
    July 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Just a note on the gluten-free-ness of the recipe. Asafoetida is usually NOT gluten free, as the gum is most often mixed with wheat flour. I’ve read that Frontier sells an asafoetida that is made with rice flour though.

    • Reply
      July 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Fascinating, I had no idea! You could also just omit it. I’ll add a note to the recipe.

  17. Reply
    May 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Can you add broccoli ?

    • Reply
      May 23, 2014 at 8:26 am #

      I’ve never tried… it might be good.

  18. Reply
    November 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    Hey Michael – Did you really mean 1 tablespoon of Turmeric? I used that much against my better judgement and got the bitterness that I expected. Mine was also a LOT more yellow than your pic. Usually 1 teaspoon is considered a lot. It was still pretty darn good but next time I will reduce that spice. Ah, well at least my liver should be happy with all that turmeric…

    • Reply
      November 30, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

      You know, it has been a long time since I’ve made this, so I can’t say for certain, but I agree 1 tablespoon seems on the heavy side. I do love turmeric though. You could always start with less and then add in more at step 4 if you feel like you’d like a bit more.

  19. Reply
    March 10, 2017 at 6:43 am #

    Does this recipe freeze successfully?

    • Reply
      March 10, 2017 at 6:54 am #

      I don’t think i’ve tried, but I’d suspect the cauliflower will get watery.

  20. Reply
    March 10, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks, Michael. I think I’ll make a soup this time; I’m focused on the freezer for a specific reason. But I’ll make this another time. The site is intriguing; I’ll explore. 🙂

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